Ocean Born Mary

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Ocean Born Mary (July 26, 1720 – February 13, 1814) is a folklore legend of New England. Born Mary Wilson on the Atlantic Ocean on July 26, 1720, she grew up in Londonderry, New Hampshire. Daughter of James and Elizabeth (Fulton) Wilson, Mary married James Wallace on December 18, 1742. She had four sons, Robert, William, Thomas, and James Wallace, and one daughter Elizabeth. Three of the sons married sisters, daughters of Robert and Mary Moore of Londonderry. Robert married Jeannette, William married Hannah, and James married Anna. Elizabeth married Lieut. Thomas Patterson of the New Hampshire militia.


Mary's background was Scottish through Ireland. Her father died shortly after the ship landed in Boston, and her mother remarried to James Clarke prior to settlement in Londonderry.

During the voyage to the United States the ship (reputedly called "The Wolf") was taken over by pirates who threatened to loot the ship and sink it with all on board. When the pirate captain heard the cry of a newborn baby he went below to discover Mrs. Wilson holding the child. He told Mrs. Wilson to name the baby Mary and he would spare all on board and depart the ship which she agreed to. On leaving the ship, the pirate threw over a bolt of green brocade cloth that he said was to be used by Mary on her wedding day. While Mary did in fact wear the brocade, she may not have been the first to do so, as when her mother remarried the cloth may have been used on that occasion as well.

Mary and James Wallace were married for 39 years, until October 30, 1781, when James died in Londonderry and was buried in the Hill Burying ground there. In 1798 Mary came to live with her son William at his home in Henniker. Ocean Born Mary died on February 13, 1814, aged 93. She is buried in the Center Burying Ground in Henniker. Her sons and son in law were all prominent men in New Hampshire.

Ocean Born Mary was described as being quite tall, red haired with bright eyes, elegant in her manners, resolute and determined, of strong mind, quick of comprehension, sharp in her conversation, with a strong brogue and full of humor.

Pieces of the gown she married in are scattered in various places including the New Hampshire Historical Society. The folk song, "Ocean-Born Mary," by Neptune's Car was inspired by Mary's story.


Mary's claim to fame is as a reputed ghost. However she never really haunted the place she was reputed to haunt. There were two Wallace houses in the town of Henniker, one the home of her son Robert, and the other the home of her son William.

The story of haunting was begun by Louis Roy who owned the Robert Wallace house and has now been discredited. While it lasted it was quite a tale of pirates, treasure, and all sorts of hauntings associated with such. It is doubtful that Mary ever saw the pirate after his ship departed.

William's house became the town poor farm in 1840 and burned to the ground in 1923. Robert's home, built in 1760, still stands today. Mary lived with her son William. Reputedly she didn't care for Robert, and it is doubtful that she ever visited him.


  • Flanders, Alice V., Ocean Born Mary
  • Coggswell, History of Henniker, NH
  • Parker, History of Londonderry, NH